by Aurora Bordeaux
Well, kiddies, it’s that magical time of year again… Mandatory In-law Vacation time! That’s right, it’s open season to resurrect last year’s hit Baby Off Board Series: Family Vacation!
To update you all from last year’s stats, this year the humble beachside abode supported two grandparents, five parents (and one absentee who never shows up), and s-e-v-e-n grandchildren all under the age of 8. I’m no rocket scientist when it comes to math, but the Hubs and I were clearly outnumbered.
When the we checked into family vaca last year, life was different. We had talked about sterilization but not taken any steps. I was less of a protagonist in my own story, always jittery and nervous around in-laws I was desperate to please, and I felt like a Martian fresh off the ship. But this year my krav maga level 2 skills have sharpened my combat abilities and social confidence, and I crashed into the family mix like a Kool-Aid man with backbone. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration given that no one but the Hubs even noticed a difference, but I felt different, and that’s what matters.
I feel a world more resilient than I did last year, probably because the Hubs and I are now sharing the sacred secret of his snip-snip. I’m also just taking everyone less seriously because I have finally trained myself to not care about what they think of me. I always believed I had to win my in-laws over and tiptoe around my childfree status, but now I’m focusing less on how they feel about me and more on how I feel about myself. And I like me pretty good most of the time. I don’t declare my childfree status to family because it’s no one’s business, but I also don’t go out of my way anymore to make excuses for my lifestyle.
And you know what I realized once I stopped caring? That everyone likes me just fine, and probably always did. I was just uptight and looking for formal confirmation of approval. That’s just not how these folks operate. Eight years into our marriage, I’m still learning about life with the Hub’s kin.
Conditions have further improved over previous vacation years because this year’s house had a much better floor plan than previous homes we rented, which is to say that our bedroom is on the top floor, not located directly underneath the kitchen. The seven dwarves (nieces and nephews) we holed up with have a tendency to wake up at 5:30 a.m. or so and start rumbling around the entire abode mining for God knows what, but now that we were tucked safe on the more remote corner of the top floor, we slept in until the luxurious hour of 7:42 a.m. Sold!
The first morning, I rolled over in the blazing light and buried my head in the hub’s shoulder, nudging (okay, shoving) his arm aside to make room. I wrapped my arm and leg around him like a koala and hung on for dear life, soaking up every solitary second of quality time like a camel preparing for a day of in-law interaction. We emerged at 8, me wearing a favorite krav maga t-shirt that felt as comforting as a hug, made a fresh pot of the black and bracing, and scuffled down to the beach.
The kids were rolling around in the sand, and to my surprise, one of them said hello. That was a nice touch that made me like all of them better. Every year the hobbits develop more people skills, and saying hello is one of my favorite pleasantries. When I gave one of them a shell, she actually said “thank you.” The ratio of raw, mindless screaming to concentrating sand architecture had shifted greatly since last year, and I realized we might actually have an okay time on this trip. The kids were acting polite and reasonable, and I like people who are polite and reasonable.
I scratched a haiku in the sand for funsies and meandered back to the pool, where the Hubs and I found ourselves suddenly gigged in the time honored trap of being left alone to babysit. Parents always claim they’ll be back “in just a minute,” and the proportions of what they call just a minute and what you call just a minute are always an ocean apart. The Hubs and I dangled feet in the chlorinated water, smiling quietly to each other at the trick as the minutes dragged into half hours.
“Why are they taking so long?” the Hubs whispered as the children dunked themselves in the tiny pool, punctuating gasps with frantic appeals to “Watch me! Watch me!”
The Hubs squinted at the sunscreened seal pups scurrying to and fro after their diving sticks in the morning sun. “Too late,” he said.
It’s fun to have a secret, and even more fun to feel like we are at long last settled in our lifestyle and in our choice to be childfree. There was a wonderful, empty new condo waiting for us back in the new city we love, and when this mandatory vacation that might turn out to be fun was over, we would move in and begin our new lives. How lucky, lucky, lucky we were.
What’s that saying about good things never lasting? Oh yeah—“it’s all fun and games until your sister in law and her greedy kids chomp down the crabs you spent all morning catching in the hot sun.” But that’s another post for another day.